Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
John Nolt, E.J. Coffman, Alfred Beasley
In my dissertation I use Nicholas Wolterstorff’s conception of the good life (eirenéism), which serves as the foundation for his theory of rights, to argue for a new ethics of forgiveness that incorporates the necessary relational features of forgiveness, while at the same time providing substantive normative guidance in regards to when one should forgive. I, then, show that eirenistic forgiveness implies there is an obligation to forgive: a repentant wrongdoer has a right to be forgiven that creates certain obligations for victims to forgive.
I, like Wolterstorff, find such an implication repugnant, and so I spend the majority of my dissertation addressing this implication. I address the obligation to forgive by developing and responding to Wolterstorff’s claim that forgiveness is a non-obligation-producing third-party obligation, and I argue that because forgiveness is like all other obligations, the acceptance of such a position implies that all obligations are third-party obligations. To avoid this conclusion, I provide an argument that shows that the two-party obligation to forgive is not repugnant, or at least not as repugnant as first seems. I spend the remainder of my dissertation showing how one can apply eirenistic forgiveness to a wide-range of difficult cases, that the right to seek punishment does not compete or override the obligation to forgive, and by examining whether or not eirenéism is a religious ethic or if it is an ethical system amenable to both theists and non-theists.
Lewis, David Court, "When One Should Forgive: Eirenistic Responses to Wrongdoing. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2012.